FACING three impeachment complaints, President Benigno Aquino III has sent his Cabinet officials as emissaries to Congress, offering pork barrel to congressmen in clandestine meetings despite the Supreme Court ruling that the Priority Development Assistance Fund was unconstitutional.
The subject of those meetings now form part of the fourth impeachment complaint against the President that ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said he would file Monday.
The complaint alleges a culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust,with Tinio saying that the emissaries dangled pork to buy votes against Aquino’s impeachment. Tinio said two Cabinet officials – Commission on Higher Education chairman Patricia Licuanan and Health Undersecretary Janette Garin—had held separate dialogues with the lawmakers.
Licuanan held a closed-door dialogue with congressmen last Tuesday while Garin held one a week earlier, Tinio said.
“It was not a social call. They were sent by President Aquino as his alter egos to hold what they call a series of dialogues with congressmen. We did not seek them out. They came. They offered those assurances that the lawmakers’ pork barrel funds remain intact despite the Supreme Court ruling against it,” Tinio told the Manila Standard.
“I was in those closed–door meetings, I heard it straight from the Cabinet officials their unequivocal and categorical offer and assurance that the pork barrel can still be availed of by the lawmakers, contrary to Malacanang’s pronouncement that the pork barrel for lawmakers had been scrapped,” Tinio said.
“That is why I am one of the complainants.”
Tinio said there was no way the Cabinet officials could deny that the closed-door meetings took place because many congressmen were present during the dialogues.
“They call them a series of dialogues and these began two weeks ago, shortly after the impeachment complaints were filed against the President,” Tinio said.
Besides, Tinio said, the ACT Teachers has managed to secure an audio recording of the dialogues that would boost his affidavit, which contains his personal accounts of what transpired behind closed doors.
“You don’t have to worry about your pork barrel projects because we are here to assure you that your projects, just like before, are still there. All you have to do is identify and nominate your projects,” Tinio quoted the two emissaries as telling the congressmen, whose lines, he said, appeared to have been rehearsed.
Tinio said the dialogues were official, using government time and resources, but was not officially calendared. No journalists were allowed to cover them, either.
The congressmen were told to attend the dialogue through text messages and calls, he said. No official invitation was sent out, Tinio added.
“President Aquino continues to insult the members of Congress by dangling the pork barrel to do his bidding and buy their votes against impeaching him,” Tinio said.
“By sending his emissaries and alter-egos, the President has culpably violated the Constitution and betrayed the public trust considering that the Executive’s action was made even after the Supreme Court already declared PDAF as unconstitutional. It was a brazen act of betrayal of public trust, just to save his skin,” Tinio said.
Tinio said Licuanan and Garin explained to the congressmen how to avail of the pork barrel projects from their respective agencies.
“We expect that closed door meetings will also be hosted by other Cabinet officials as the impeachment proceedings and the clamor for President Aquino’s ouster became intense,” Tinio said.
Apart from the impeachment complaint, Tinio said, the President was also courting Congress to redefine “savings” that would free him from any liability for violating the Constitution over the
Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP, parts of which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The redefinition, as desired by the Palace, would also allow the President to impound funds and declare them as savings as early as the first quarter of the year.
Tinio said Aquino was so desperate to escape impeachment, redefine savings and have the Bangsamoro Basic Law passed that he dangled “illegal pork barrel” in front of the lawmakers.
Tinio said he would ask House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to transmit the impeachment complaint that his group would file.
“House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II already announced that the leadership would transmit at 4 p.m. on Monday the three impeachment complaints. We feel that since the House leadership is under pressure from Malacanang our complaint would be barred from being transmitted to the House committee on justice. If that happens, then we expect a miscarriage of justice. We hope the Speaker would not bar our complaint if he is after truth and justice,” Tinio said.
Under the one-year impeachment ban policy, once the first impeachment complaint is transmitted, the second complaint would be barred from being heard for one year.
Another complainant, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes said no one believes Malacanang when it says it will not interfere in the impeachment process.
“If Aquino can interfere in the Corona impeachment, what’s to stop Malacanang from interfering in the Aquino impeachment?” he said.
“The people know that this regime is desperate to stay in power. And we have no doubt that there is a promise of pork in exchange for junking the impeachment raps against Aquino. We vow to fight on no matter the odds in Congress,” Reyes told the Manila Standard.
The Palace on Sunday assured the public that it would not move to kill the impeachment proceedings against the President, amid fears that the President’s allies in Congress would block the complaints.
“We acknowledge the principle of having co-equal and independent branches of government. This is a very important principle under the Constitution,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said.
“So it is best to leave it to the judgement of the House of Representatives how to deal with the impeachment complaints lodged before them,” he added.
House leaders are poised to refer the three impeachment complaints -- two over the discredited Disbursement Acceleration Program and one over the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States -- to the justice committee Monday.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, who endorsed one of the two impeachment complaints for the unconstitutional acts under the DAP, said the Makabayan bloc has prepared carefully for the upcoming hearing.
“We believe the case against Aquino is strong,” said Ridon.
But the militant lawmaker acknowledged that there will be some lawmakers who will “blindly seek to block the impeachment proceedings without first hearing the merits of the case.”
The House justice committee is chaired by Iloilo Rep. Neil Tupas, an ally of the President.
Coloma said the President remains unfazed with the efforts to remove him from office.
“The President is not worried with the impeachment proceedings. He is confident that he has not committed any impeachable offense,” he said.
“This is why (monitoring the impeachment proceedings) is not a priority of the President. There are other things of higher priority that the President is focused on,” Coloma added.
The President, who is also facing record-low trust, approval and satisfaction ratings, earlier called on his supporters to wear his trademark yellow ribbon to show their support for his administration.
Color-coded counter-calls, however, have been made by various groups, to oppose the President’s yellow ribbon pitch.
The Makabayan bloc has turned to wearing peach as show of support for the impeachment efforts, while ordinary citizens have began using black ribbons and ribbons bearing the colors of the flag as profile and cover pictures on Facebook.
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